Master Tree Skill Rebalance Ideas?

This is a long post and I know it probably isn’t feasible for something like this to happen at this point in the game but I had an idea for rebalancing Fl4k’s master tree, and I’m curious what people think about it and if anyone else has their own ideas about master Fl4k they’d share. I think most people can agree Fl4k’s master skill tree and pet builds are very underpowered, especially in mayhem 3. Most of the issues people have with this seem to focus around two things: pet damage and dominance. Even on mayhem 1 and 2 the damage output of Fl4k’s pets is so low it struggles to kill the weakest enemies even with maximum pet damage and the boost from gamma burst. Dominance is a fun skill, I personally use it and enjoy it but it is very underpowered compared to every other cap skill and doesn’t have much synergy with the rest of the tree. I wouldn’t want to see it replaced because I think it adds something cool and unique to Fl4k’s skillset but having it at the end of the master tree is an awkward place. Builds that want pet damage have no reason to take it over the 25-50% from the Power Inside, and builds that aren’t focused on the pet can’t afford that many points in the master tree.
That’s why I think a good way to improve the master tree, both as a primary tree for pet builds and a secondary tree for other builds would be to do something like what they did with Zane’s kill skill tree prior to release, swapping the place of Dominance and Psycho Head on a Stick and buffing the latter to compensate. Placing dominance at the halfway point instead of the end of the tree would allow more builds to use it. Right now the master tree is all or nothing, not worth investing in at all unless you want to buff the pet to its full potential. Having a melee override at the halfway point would give non-pet builds a reason to put minor investment into the tree and their pet, especially since some of the tier 2 skills like Frenzy and Who Rescued Who provide Fl4k with useful things like damage and health regen for keeping their pet alive.
As for Psycho Head on a Stick, I think a good change to make it worthy of being the master tree’s ultimate skill would be if it had the ability to stack and last longer than 8 seconds. Pet builds in many games tend to be a slower playstyle that trades raw damage for survivability and potential, and I think a stacking mechanic would be perfect for this, while a kill skill provides burst damage and is basically the opposite of this. Along the lines of “Whenever Fl4k kills an enemy they gain a stack of Psycho Head on a Stick. Each stack boosts their pet’s damage by x% and movement speed by x%. Stacks are lost while Fl4k’s pet is in fight for your life, and all stacks are lost if their pet dies". Obviously the stack cap would need to be fairly low so other skills that boost pet damage like Ferocity don’t become irrelevant, and maybe include a penalty to the pet’s damage reduction or cause the stacks to decay if Fl4k hasn’t had a kill recently so it’s harder to build stacks and doesn’t become too overpowered. This would make the pet build a slower build good for mobbing, giving it a role that would distinguish it from Fl4k’s faster dps and boss killing builds. For people who choose not to use the skill and when you have low stacks the pet would function as it does now drawing aggro and sponging up damage but with almost no ability to deal it (though hopefully that will be buffed in the future). This would satisfy the people who put minimal investment into the master tree and don’t want a pet stealing their kills. But for people who want to build around their pet this would allow them to do that, slowly turning the pet into a monster that deals a lot of damage but requires constant support to keep it alive and maintain your hard earned stacks. This would also get around the issue that a strong pet build reduces player involvement and the need for good gear, since you need to keep getting kills yourself to activate Psycho Head on a Stick, and it would make Gamma Burst the indispensable option for pet builds it should be, as it would allow you to revive your pet without losing too many stacks.
I think this is a way to make the master tree better, both for people who want to focus on their pet and as an option for putting a few points into without having to change too many skills. So in theory what would people think of this? Did I forget anything important? Does anyone have any other cool ideas for rebalancing the master tree?

This is definitely well intentioned, but I think there are some assumptions that a lot of people are making about the master tree that really skews the perception of what is actually wrong. For starters.

That is not necessarily true.
Pet builds are underperforming in my, and many other people’s opinions. That doesn’t mean that the Master Skill tree as a whole is underperforming though. Gamma Burst builds focused around tanking or gun damage are actually gaining popularity, and are looking to be very effective in Mayhem 3 for their mixture of tankiness and DPS that the post-nerf crit builds don’t have. The Master tree has a surprising amount of gun damage boosts in it, 132% to be exact.

Especially since the buff to Barbaric Yawp, it can be paired with either other tree to add extra survivability or damage.

As a pet tree, master needs work. But as a FL4K skill tree, it works well. That brings us to point number 2.

Once again, this is close, but not the whole story.
The master skill tree has over 140% damage for the pets not including Gamma Burst, as well as He Bites and Atomic Aroma for nice passive DPS just by existing. The tree provides more than enough damage for the pets. It is the pets themselves, the base skills, that lack the damage to scale the Master skill tree to usable levels. Outside of tripling every pet damage related skill in the tree, no fix to the skills as they currently exist would make the pets perform better.

That is where the issue with Dominance comes in. It may have its quirks, but because the pets lack sufficient base damage to scale the Master trees buffs to a usable level, the only way to make pets do damage is by turning enemy damage against them. He Bites is one part of this formula. Dominance is the other. By converting an enemy to your side, you can take all of the enemy’s damage with you, instead of the at most 40% you get with He Bites. Regardless of how the AI derps out, even if they are only active for a few seconds, they will likely out damage your pet in any equivalent time frame.

Many people seem keen to change Dominance to pet another pet on the field. I think that would be a horrible approach. Until pets, at their base level, get buffed, 2x0 is still 0.

I don’t think anyone would anyway. Aside from the Dominance ironically working better with Fade Away than Gamma Burst (invisibility to get the melee attack off, don’t need to waste a slot on Face Puncher), as you said, Dominance doesn’t synergize with Master in the conventional sense.

Dominance is basically a bandaid for poor pet scaling. It’s more akin to Close Enough covering for Anarchy accuracy loss than a synergy like No Kill Like Overkill and Money Shot. Unlike close enough, it basically exists independently of the pets, making it so that you could play without having a pet equipped and Dominance wouldn’t function differently. If your goal as FL4K is to make YOUR pet as awesome as possible, Dominance won’t appeal to you. And if you are going down Master for a gun FL4K, then Dominance does nothing for you anyway, so why bother? It’s a pretty small niche that would take Dominance just to have ANY friendly NPC fight alongside you, as we can see from how many people hated Thoughtlock.

As stated earlier, master skill has 132% total gun damage. A lot of it is available by tier 2. You can get 47% damage for 10 skill points. (and an Action skill, an augment, and a pet to be fair).

If your goal is tanking, you don’t need steep investment either. For 14 points, you can get 15% damage reduction and a near permanent 2% health regen per second.

Next to Stalker, Master is the tree you need the least investment in to get massive QOL.


Any extra damage or stats to the pet should be baked into the base skill. That is just about all that is needed to make Master pet builds viable.

But to your question about how to rebalance the tree, it seems that Gearbox is pushing for Gamma Burst to work like Axton’s Turret, making the skill and pet provide the player with bonuses for having it active, while not contributing a lot of direct damage on its own. This isn’t too bad, if not for all of the damage bonuses for the pet giving the impression that you can make it a significant portion of your DPS.

So I would make a stupidly simple change: Make a skill (maybe replaced Shared Spirit) that makes enemies FL4K targets for attack commands take extra damage. Basically, give Fl4k laser guided. That way you have a skill that buffs both gun and pet builds equally, makes use of a currently underutilized mechanic, and contributes to all of the strengths of the Master skill tree; support builds, gun builds, and pet builds.

Super long winded. I apoloigze.

No need to apologize, it’s a good response even if it is long. I wasn’t really suggesting it as a change or looking to see builds so much as asking for thoughts in a theory sense. Game design, modding and programming are a bit of an amateur hobby for me so whenever I really enjoy a game I’m always curious about people’s ideas for making things better, even in one like this where implementing those changes isn’t possible. I have been using a Gamma Burst/Master build from day 1 and I am well aware of how much gun damage and tanking potential it has, as well as the fact that the pet build is kept down more by the pet itself than a lack of skills to boost it. I guess it was a poor choice of words to say the master skill tree is underpowered, more like “the master tree is powerful, just not in the pet focused role most of the skills in it seem to imply”. Similarly saying the master tree was all or nothing is a poor choice of words, it might be more accurate to say if you don’t care about the pet, the returns you get after tier 2 sharply decline, so placing the melee override in tier 3 and the pet buff in tier 6 makes sense. And you’re right that nobody would go down the master tree for dominance regardless of its tier, but it would certainly be a decent 1 point option for people who had already spent 10 points in the tree, especially if they wanted barbaric yawp. Especially since as you said dominance is mostly a bandage for the pet’s terrible damage output, meaning it will only look less appealing as a tier 6 skill for pet builds if the pet actually gets buffed. I really like the idea to implement laser guided through the attack commands, I didn’t really use Wilhelm much but I mained Axton for a long time in 2 so getting around your pet’s damage issues by having them buff your damage is a concept I am very familiar with, as is having them provide special effect to you. That’s pretty much how I’m already playing Fl4k and while I wish the pet was better I don’t have much of a problem with it, but I know a lot of people do.

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I think the biggest problem with the pet is that the play style is a tease.

Jabbers don’t need Gamma Burst to do damage, they actually do more without it. The Skag and spiderant do need it, but only because Atomic Aroma is the second most, if not the most, powerful damage skill the melee pets have. Other than that, He Bites provides a large share of damage versus beefy enemies. For grunts Atomic Aroma does almost all the work.

Unless pet damage actually effects Atomic Aroma, it is a useless stat for melee pets because its damage exists independently of their sad damage. They are basically a delivery mechanism for DOTs that do all the killing. Jabbers are the only pets that have enough base damage to scale the damage of master to usable levels, and they work better without the pet boosting action skill.

It subverts any expectations one could reasonably have. If you want your pets to do damage, either avoid the action skill that buffs them completely (Jabber), or focus heavily on DOTs and damage reflection to get them enough damage to kill (skag and spiderant).

It’s unintuitive, frustrating, and completely nonsensical that for all the pet damage in the tree, most of it doesn’t actually synergize with Gamma Burst because the pets MELEE attacks specifically do sad boy damage.

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The idea of a decent pet build is definitely a tease right now, but I’d like to hope that isn’t intentional. It’s pretty sad that the class mod that taunts enemies and boosts He Bites is better for pet damage than the one that actually gives your pet another 20% damage. But yeah you’re right that the master tree is actually full of good skills, and it especially will be if the pet gets buffed to the point that pet damage is a useful investment. I just think the master tree and domination are to Fl4k what gunpowder and nuke were to Axton, a tree with a lot of great skills brought down by a cap skill that seems fun but is ultimately too situational to use.

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That is a fair analogy. I can respect that.

Also, at least from what I’ve heard, in another blow to pet builds, the 20% damage from the friendbot mod is apparently bugged and isn’t applying. I don’t have to see for myself, but FYI.

A problem I have with the Master tree is that it doesn’t really fit the promotional material for Fl4k as there are 2 problems. 1. The pets have been shown as beasts that are able to tear enemies apart. 2. Fl4k wouldn’t take some pitiful creature like a bandit under their wings, not even as obedient slave.

The first thing could be changed relatively easily by increasing the pets overall damage output (Skag and Spiderant more than the Jabbers) + reworking the bonuses Gamma Burst grants. My idea was to give Gamma Burst a 2 times multiplier to the damage of the pet (base damage + all bonuses) and grant additional 50% as radioactive damage on top (this is also multiplicative), so that Gamma Burst effectively triples all damage the pets do. In addition to that I would have the Jabbers work like they do without Gamma Burst but instead of granting the 2 times multiplier I would just grant them bonus radiation damage to their guns that’s equivalent to 200% of their regular damage. Their other attacks would work the same as the melee pets though as those are melee-based as well.

My solution would create an interesting problem: It would make Gamma Burst the strongest action skill in the early game by far and would make the pets seem overpowered early on. I don’t know how to prevent this, but it could help if some of the damage of Gamma Burst would come not from the skill, but from the Augments. For example the base bonus granted by Gamma Burst starts lower, but the augments passively increase the bonus. Alternatively there would be the option to have more damage bonuses for the pets further down the tree.

Barbaric Yawp is a skill that by it’s name should boost the pet, but it doesn’t do that. My idea for it was to let it increase the pet damage and health and further Increase the pet damage while Gamma Burst is active. Something like “pet damage and health + 30%, with an additional +50% pet damage while Gamma Burst is active” would have made more sense to me. But at least it now grants enough of a bonus that we’d feel a difference.

The overall playstyle of having a partner in crime and profiting off each other is very appealing and makes Fl4k very stable in terms of survivability, which increases the overall DPS. As it is right now it just isn’t really giving you any worthwhile incentive to use Gamma Burst as all profits you get from your pets don’t need your pet to do any big damage, just damage at all, which even a pet without any buffs will do.


The biggest problem with the pets is that their base damage is terrible. Fl4k has alot of skills which can increase their damage, but that criminally low base damage pulls them down. This is super obvious because even in the very early game, where pet and turret skills tend to shine, the pets ain’t doing ■■■■.

Upping the pets base damage by +200% would fix most of these problems - except their durability at M3. Close range pets (skaggie and spiderant) need a hefty HP buff - won’t save them against anointed, but at least they won’t go down against the first rocket toting badass.

Attack Command also needs a decent buff, because right now the damage just isn’t dramatic enough to justify the cooldown and Eager to Impress secondary effect is basically worthless because the pets rarely kill anything with their Attack Command anyway.

Regarding Master Tree, alot of the skills are actually pretty decent, and work as advertised. I think Go For the Eyes could be better though - it should not only apply to the first melee strike, given by now we have come to accept that our pets ain’t one shotting anything. Psycho Head on a Stick should also give a bigger number for a Kill Skill.

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Or it could just be not completely ■■■■ honestly. As far as my testing goes the pets seem to have no critical hit bonuses, so all they get is that extra 15% damage per point. Although, after the first few tries I never specced into it again. The lack of critical damage bonuses might have been a bug.

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The pets need some serious scaling tweaks, the build I use right now, even in m3 my pets can manage some kills, but its actually just the damage its reflecting along eith the atomic aroma dot that does all the damage. Its actual hits are like being slapped with a wet noodle. Go for the eyes should honestly add a base chance for the pet to crit while attacking along with the crit bonuses, that would make it much more worth while

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Awesome insight and suggestions in this thread. Overall, I agree (does someone not?) with the consensus that pet scaling sucks, and that’s the biggest issue across the board. Like many have said, Aroma/He Bites are the only moments where the pet class feels like a pet class. The numbers come in waves and it feels good. When your pet is basic attacking it feels the opposite; underwhelming, under-powered, and pointless.

Gamma shouldn’t be a “use it or you suck” ultimate ability. Borderlands was always founded on the principle that your ultimate attack is your overpowered burst of murder, not a necessity to be even remotely competent.

Let’s not forget some of the Mayhem 3 modifiers can absolutely cripple a build focused on action skills.

The Master Tree, imo, should also facilitate pet types. What I mean is the somewhat trivial bonuses you get between pets and an aesthetic change is also a tease (props to @boombumr for that perfect description). I chose the beefcake jabber because I assumed it would be the “tank” jabber, with taunts and a mountain of health. I was wrong.

One thing I’d love to see is each Skag, for example, to be an archetype. So perhaps the spikey boi is a tank, and the crystal pup is dps. That would not only allow us lazy pet fanboys to have our tank, but allow those looking for a bloodthirsty sidekick with no aggro control get theirs.

TL;DR Pet scaling sucks. Pet variety sucks.


Dominance is bad. I wouldn’t even spend 1 point on it if it were in the middle of the tree.
Having to get close and melee in the middle of a mayhem 3 fire fight is suicide. And having one enemy fight with you isn’t going to help much in the fight.
Also the fact it doesn’t work on bosses.
I’m not saying I think you should control a boss but during boss fights that skill is useless compared to the other capstones that help you during a boss fight.

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SAY IT LOUDER FOR THE PEEPS IN THE BACK:clap::clap::clap::clap:

A Jabber is not 5X as tanky as a spiderant, so why does it do more than 5x the damage? That doesn’t give us variety.

The passive effects become decently distinguishable with Barbaric Yawp, but at base they are so low they don’t make a tremendous difference on their own. So if the passives are so low, and most of the time barely noticable, then why is the performance of the pets themselves so varied and unbalanced?

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Pet damage should be buffed. And I would prefer comletely new capstone for the tree maybe something like the ability to run two pets

I recently did a Skag guide that focused on the Master tree, maxing out Pet damage. I was shocked to find out that the Gunslinger Jabber attack command, in my crit build, actually does MORE damage than the Skag command. Significantly more, if we count that it’s 3 shots. That’s not to say the damage is good, but that the Skags is terrible

Jabbers and countess are the only ones with good commands. The rest of the pets suck unfortunately.

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My only current issue with the Master Tree, is the 2 points I waste in the first teir. I have no problem with allowing players to buff pet damage. But Go For the Eyes! is worthless.

A nice change would to make it a pet attack speed skill. It would buff pet dps and provide utility to non-pet focused builds by stacking frenzy quicker.